Creating Alaska

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Document's sojourn ends

Staff Writer

A piece of Alaska history came home Monday.

Peter Reader Jr. presented his father's delegate copy of the Alaska Constitution to the University of Alaska Museum of the North in honor of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the constitution's drafting.

Peter Reader Sr. was a convention delegate from Nome who joined 54 other Alaska men and women in November 1955 at the UAF campus to craft the constitution in an effort to promote statehood. Reader was a former miner and Nome City Councilman and was the only delegate who actively opposed statehood.

Reader and his family left Nome in 1965 for the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington, where he died in 2002. The younger Reader said his father's copy of the constitution was packed away in a closet most of the time.

But Monday it got the white glove treatment. Reader unpacked the document from between two pieces of cardboard, along with the pen tips his father used to sign the constitution and his certificate of election as a delegate. Museum employee Molly Lee donned white protective gloves and accepted the pen set, which will be displayed at the museum. Anne Foster of the UAF Rasmuson Library accepted the constitution and certificate of election, which will reside in the rare book collection at the library.

Reader said his father was against the idea of statehood for Alaska, mostly because he didn't see how Alaska could afford to pay for the workings of statehood. But he signed the constitution because he was proud of the work the convention accomplished and the document they penned.

"But he never thought it might amount to anything," he said.

The constitution was formally adopted by the convention delegates on Feb. 5, 1956, was ratified by the Alaska electorate on April 24, 1956, and became law with the formal proclamation of statehood on Jan. 3, 1959.

On Monday, several university and museum officials gathered and heard remarks from UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, board of regents chairman Brian Rogers, UAF history professor Terrence Cole and convention delegate Jack Coghill.

"The Alaska Constitution is noted by scholars as an exceptional document because of its brevity," Rogers said.

Cole spoke about how Reader epitomized that brevity. While he contributed greatly as a member of the committee on resources and committee on resolution and recommendation, Reader was recognized on the last day of the convention as one of the only delegates who had not made official comments from the floor. He was asked to at least take a bow.

Cole played a recording of Reader's brief statement.

"I certainly enjoyed my knowledge which I gained from this convention and I don't think anyone could ever buy it," Reader said.

There are 100 original copies of the constitution in existence. Fifty-five were created for the delegates. Others reside in Washington, D.C, the Library of Congress and at state institutions. When Coghill spoke Monday, he noted that several family members of delegates have donated copies of the constitution to the museum. Coghill said his copy may also someday reside next to Reader's, but he's hanging on to it for a while longer.

"Every time the kids come around, I still preach to them about the state constitution and how great it is," Coghill said.

Peter and Barbara Reader Attend Donation Ceremony

Photo courtesy UA Public Affairs

Peter and Barbara Reader listen as UAF Historian Terrence Cole speaks about the role of Delegate Peter Reader, Sr. at the Alaska Constitutional Convention. Reader, a delegate from Nome, was opposed to statehood for Alaska, but worked diligently on Alaska's constitution. UA Regent and Creating Alaska Advisory Board Chair Brian Rogers is seated on the left.

Chancellor Jones Thanks the Readers on Behalf of the University

Photo courtesy UA Public Affairs

UAF Chancellor Steve Jones shakes hands with Barbara Reader. The Reader Family donated an original copy of Alaska's Constitution to the University, along with Peter Reader, Sr.'s certificate of election and the pen tips used to sign the document.

UAF Leadership Receives Reader Donation

Convention Delegate Jack Coghill, UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, Peter Reader, Jr., Barbara Reader, UAF Archivist Anne Foster, UA Board of Regents Chair Brian Rogers and UA Museum Curator Molly Lee pose with the Peter Reader Constitution in the UA Museum of the North

Back to Top